Needham Market Catastrophe Cat Cafe owners fined
The owners of a "cat cafe" have been fined up to £700 each for breaching food hygiene laws.
Laura Moyes, 26, and Gemma Whitehouse, 30, ran the now closed Catastrophe Cat Cafe in Needham Market.
Inspectors found out-of-date food in the fridge, dirty crockery in a kitchen sink, poor record-keeping and volunteer staff untrained in hygiene.
Moyes and Whitehouse admitted two food hygiene offences when they appeared at Suffolk Magistrates Court.
The court heard the not-for-profit cafe, where cats frequently roamed around the tables, opened in August 2017.
A £5 entry fee helped raise funds to care for unwanted cats and they re-homed nine before the cafe closed in May.
Mid Suffolk District Council officers made repeated inspections following 11 complaints from the public.
Prosecuting solicitor Simon Smith told the court inspectors found a "small and cramped" kitchen and food safety regulations not being followed.
They said the owners claimed they only served pre-prepared food, but there was evidence of sandwiches being made on the premises.
Despite repeated advice, the defendants continued to find unwashed crockery and, because there was only the one sink, there was a failure to ensure food and hands were washed in separate sinks.
Moyes, of Stowmarket, was fined £500 while Whitehouse, of Woolpit, has to pay £700 in fines, while both must pay £250 costs.
In mitigation, defence lawyer Stuart Cooper said the pair had had good intentions, but had been subjected to a "hate campaign" from a small group of people.
He said no customers became ill and it was not "one of those cases with cockroaches, mice and rats running around".
Speaking after she was sentenced, Whitehouse said: "Unfortunately, as we grew that small kitchen couldn't meet demand - mistakes were made. Everybody put the cats first."